A vampire, no matter how bloodthirsty, can’t enter your house if you don’t invite her. Supernatural rules like this one make vampire tales gripping but also poignantly perceptive about mortal relationships. This week a stage version of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s beautiful novel-turned-film, Let the Right One In, opens at St. Ann’s Warehouse — but National Theatre of Scotland writer Jack Thorne and director John
Tiffany shortchange the mystery for a little too much melodrama.
Thorne sticks to Lindqvist’s plot, with
minor simplifications. Shy, scrawny Oskar (Cristian Ortega) endures vicious bullying at school until he meets Eli (Rebecca Benson), a new neighbor with superhuman strength and a distaste for daylight. Not coincidentally, their rural hamlet is suddenly plagued by gory killings and police begin hunting for a sadistic murderer obsessed with his victims’ blood. Can Oskar and Eli aid each other’s quests for survival, and can their brief communion last?
Benson is touching as the strange, sweet Eli, and Christine Jones’s set — slender birches amid darkness and snow — is elegantly ominous. If only the rest of the production followed suit: Too often the adaptors ham it up, adding exposition, glib dances, and shouting matches. Missing is the film’s graceful restraint. Thorne and Tiffany celebrate the story’s bittersweetness — they just don’t make a good case for turning it into a play.